It took several visits to Singapore and China before I would venture into Moon Cakes. There was nothing in my background that allowed my mind to conceive of anything filled with red beans being a sweet treat. That was until my associate in Singapore brought a small bakery box to our meeting with two of the most beautiful Moon Cakes I had ever seen. Lightly browned and imprinted with an elaborate design, it was love at first sight. Am sure the incredible aroma rising from the box had much to do with it.
Liang’s mother had created these delights specifically for me after learning of my aversion to sampling these delicacies even though I was willing to venture into almost any other culinary offering. Lucky Nai Nai, as she was known to Liang’s children, was convinced her Moon Cakes surpassed any others in Singapore. After my first bite, I had to agree with her.
The flaky, shortbread type crust encased sweet red bean paste covering a hard boiled egg yolk in the center. As I took my first bite, I began to understand how important the egg yolk was to providing balance to the sweetness of the red bean paste. Later, when I actually met Lucky Nai Nai, I learned the real reason she added the egg yolk was to provide a “wish” to each cake for luck to the recipient, and then I understood why her grandchildren called her Lucky Nai Nai. Each subsequent visit to Singapore was started with a small bakery box of Moon Cakes.
I have tried several since, but none quite compared to the Lucky Nai Nai’s. If they did not include the egg yolk, the red bean paste was overwhelming sweet. If the crust was not the correct texture, they were dry. While I never had the time for Lucky Nai Nai to teach me her secrets, I experimented through the years until I developed these miniature Moon Cakes or what I call Lunar Cakes.
These Lunar Cakes have all the elements of the original Moon Cakes but miniaturized to allow them to be served as a side with Chinese Fruit Cake or simply a small treat with an afternoon cup of tea. The addition of Chinese 5 Spice powder is a Flavor Tier I simply could not resist. The hint of the spice combination adds a mysterious flavor and incredible aroma to the cakes.
Be sure to add your “wish” to each cake as you place the egg yolk balls on the dough. Lucky Nai Nai would be proud.
¼ c white sugar
½ c butter, unsalted
2 egg yolks, divided
1 c flour, all purpose
Pinch Chinese 5 Spice powder
1 T heavy cream
2 large egg, hard boiled
1 c red bean paste such as Koshi an
Place the sugar and butter in a medium sized mixing bowl. Beat until blended and light in color. Add one egg yolk; beat until completely blended.
Add flour and Chinese 5 Spice powder. Stir until completely blended and a dough is formed. Shape in a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Place hard boiled egg yolks in a small bowl. Using a fork, mash the yolks until completely broken down. Set aside. Discard the egg white or save for another use.
Remove dough from refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a pie crust thinness about 1/8” thick. Cut twelve 3” circles. Reroll dough scraps if needed to reach twelve circles. Any leftover dough can be cut into pieces and baked as cookies. Place dough circles on a parchment paper. Using a ¼ teaspoon measure, shape 12 small balls with the hard boiled egg yolks. Place an egg yolk ball on each dough circle.
Place 1 tablespoon red bean paste on the dough circles, covering the egg yolk completely. Pull up sides of the dough circles to completely enclose the filling, pressing together to seal and gently rolling to create a ball.
Spray a mini muffin pan with oil and place one dough ball, seam side up, into each muffin cup. Pat each dough ball gently to flatten. Place in refrigerator of 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375°. Remove dough from refrigerator. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sided baking sheet. Place baking sheet over mini muffin pan. Turn muffin pan upside down, hold sheet and pan together about 3 inches from countertop and drop to release the dough balls. A small cookie cutter may be used to create a design in the center of the cakes. Beat the remaining egg yolk with the cream. Brush cakes with the egg yolk mix. Place in oven and bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven. Let sit on baking sheet until cool.
Place 3 cakes on each of 4 dessert plates. Excellent accompaniment to Chinese Fruit Salad.